The ramifications of Webber's new deal

Although it was only Mark Webber who signed his latest one-year contract extension, the Australian's decision to stay with World Champions Red Bull will cause ripples up and down the pitlane.

Last Updated: 10/07/12 3:07pm

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Although it was only Mark Webber who signed his latest one-year contract extension, the Australian's decision to stay with World Champions Red Bull will cause ripples of effect up and down the pitlane...

Hamilton is likely to stay at McLaren
The sound you can hear is a door slamming shut. The Lewis Hamilton 'will-he-go-or-will-he-stay' saga has dragged on for a couple of months, but Webber's recommitment to Red Bull effectively brings the matter to a close. Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso in residence, is not a feasible option for the Spaniard's former sparring partner, while the absence of a winning formula at Mercedes surely makes a transfer there an unappealing prospect compared to the attraction of staying with the familiar (and mostly successful) confines of McLaren. All that remains is for terms of the deal to be agreed...

Lewis might have to take a pay cut
The Webber news has effectively pulled the rug from under Lewis' feet and left McLaren in a far stronger negotiating position than they were at the start of the week (which was looking pretty weak when Webber seemed set for Ferrari). Deprived of a realistic alternative place of employment, Hamilton faces being forced to accept the stance of Ron Dennis that the world economy is currently stuck in a very different environment to the one in which he signed his current deal.

MARK WEBBER FACTBOX

Born: 27/8/1976, Queanbeyan, New South Wales.

1991: Takes up karting.

1994: Switches to Formula Ford, moving to Europe the following year.

1997: British F3.

1999: Sportscar racing for Mercedes, first F1 test for Arrows.

2001: runner-up in F3000, test driver for Benetton.

2002: F1 debut for Minardi, finishes fifth in first race (Melbourne).

2003: Joins Jaguar.

2005: Joins Williams, first podium at Monaco.

2007: Joins Red Bull.

2009: First victory at Nurburgring.

2010: Title contender but team-mate Sebastian Vettel becomes Champion.

2011: Struggles as Vettel retains title with ease.

2012: Wins Monaco and British GPs. Signs new one-year contract for Red Bull.

McLaren can focus on the MP4-27
And it's not just from a negotiation point of view that the Red Bull announcement plays into McLaren's hands. The Hamilton saga has been an ongoing distraction, but it's one they can now shelve in favour of focusing attention on a car that, judging by its performance at Silverstone, certainly needs it.

Red Bull can enjoy the benefit of stability
With Webber signed up, the World Champions know precisely what they will be doing next season and who will be doing it. Their press release announcing Webber's extension might as well have been titled 'if it aint broke, don't fix it'. The team are settled and, with their four-championships-in-two-years partnership secured for another season, can look to the future with brimming confidence.

Felipe Massa may be given a reprieve
It's an indication of just how seriously Webber and Ferrari flirted that confirmation of talks between the two was included in the Red Bull announcement. It's clear that Ferrari would have replaced Massa with Webber if they could, but, with the Australian now opting to remain at Red Bull instead, what had seemed very unlikely a few months ago is now a probability and Massa will be handed an extension. Although...

Ferrari may have to think twice about Sergio Perez's 'inexperience'
It's certainly within the realms of possibility that Ferrari's declaration at the end of May that Perez is currently too inexperienced to drive for them for next season was made at a time when they expected Webber to join forces with Fernando Alonso. Now, depending on their level of faith in Massa's ability to maintain his recent relative recovery, they might have to think again.

Vettel is more likely, not less, to join Ferrari in 2014
One of the major problems with the rumour that Sebastian has agreed to swap Red Bull for red in 2014 is the notion that Webber, whose personal relationship with his current team-mate is hardly warm, would have agreed to a one-year deal in the knowledge that he was merely keeping the seat warm for Vettel (Fernando, we can be sure, won't be leaving Ferrari any time soon). What is altogether more likely, given his apparent willingness to play second fiddle at Ferrari and shortage of alternative destinations where he could extend his F1 career, is that Massa will accept a one-year extension, leaving the way open for a Vettel-Alonso partnership in 2014.

F1 is in the midst of unprecedented era of driver stability
Vettel and Webber are secured for a fifth successive season as team-mates. Consequently, Hamilton and Button are almost certain to be bound together for at least as many years as they've already been together - two and a half - while the smart money should be placed on a fourth year of Alonso and Massa at Ferrari. Change could be imminent at Mercedes, and Lotus/Renault changed both drivers for this season, but at F1's top table the seating arrangement has never seemed quite so stable.

The drivers' market can now consider opening for business
The drivers' market is an inherently elitist affair, driven from above rather than below, and now that the major pieces are beginning to fall into place and an impression has been formed of what sort of playing field we can expect in 2012, a few more deals further down the food chain should soon be agreed. Heikki Kovalainen, for example, will now know that a return to McLaren is off the agenda and realign his thoughts accordingly.

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